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Nurses going on strike is in nobody's best interests says Health Secretary

Mr.Barclay expressed his sadness that the majority of RCN members had voted for industrial action

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has said nurses going on strike is in nobody’s best interests.

In an opinion article in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Barclay urged unions to consider the impact of industrial action on those who rely on the NHS for care.

He said: ‘We are facing a difficult winter for our whole country and industrial action is in nobody’s best interests.’

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Mr. Barclay expressed his sadness at the news that the majority of Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members had voted for industrial action after he felt that the government had given nurses a proportionate and balanced pay increase.

‘We are giving over one million non-medical NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, on top of a 3% pay increase last year when wider public sector pay was frozen,’ said Mr.Barclay.

He added: ‘a newly qualified nurse will now typically earn over £31,000 a year including overtime and unsocial hours payments. This is a balanced increase that is fair for nurse and the taxpayer too.’

However, healthcare leaders do not feel that this pay rise is appropriate.

In response to the article Professor Alison Leary, ICNO Director at the QNI, tweeted saying: ‘Nursing is a competitive skilled labour market like any other, it has tolerated poor pay for a long time. If we want safe care, they need competitive pay.’

The RCN is demanding a pay rise of 17.6%, which both Mr Barclay and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have called unaffordable.

Speaking to reporters in Blackpool after a meeting of the British-Irish Council, Mr Sunak expressed his gratitude and respect for nurses but said the government’s pay offer was in line with what had been recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review body in July.

Responding to the Prime Minister's comments RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said: ‘Gratitude is not enough; it doesn’t pay the bills.’

‘No nurse ever wants to strike, but we have been forced into this situation because low pay is pushing nursing staff out of the profession and putting patient care at risk.’

However, Mr.Barclay expressed that a 17% pay increase would have an adverse impact on people’s incomes in the long run.

He said: ‘Huge settlements like these would turbocharge inflation when we are endeavouring to keep it under control.’

The Health Secretary said he was open to discussions with the RCN to explore ways forward but that the government would not agree on pay demands he called unreasonable.